Brew This: Guava Cider, Fermented Right at Your Own HomeJune 1, 2017
In 2016, we saw the rising popularity of everything and anything fermented—from pickles to to yogurt to oh-so-trendy kombucha. But the method of fermentation—essentially the process of converting carbohydrates into alchohol or organic acids using microorganisms under anaerobic conditions—is nothing new, having been utilized throughout history (it dates back as far as 6000 B.C.!) across different cultures from all over the planet. Many laud fermented foods for its health benefits as the probiotics, or “good bacteria”, naturally found in fermented foods are said to not only improves digestion, but also help control blood pressure, aid in alleviating symptoms of food allergies, and enhance the immune system (among its numerous other powerful abilities). Plus, they taste awesome—think of the complex bite you get with sukang tuba, or the tongue-tingling, savory acidity amidst the creaminess of Kapampangan buro.
You’ll find more and more stores and local purveyors offering all different kinds of fermented goods (and we love ‘em). But if you’re feeling adventurous, you can totally make it on your own—and take advantage of the Philippines’ naturally diverse agricultural landscape while you’re at it. Here, we teach you how to make cider, a classic home-brewed drink, using one of the tastiest tropical fruits you’ll find in the country: guava.
But first, the basics: cider refers to juice—traditionally from apples—fermented with yeasts, either naturally present or manually added. How does it differ from wine, which also involves fermented fruit juice, aside from wine traditionally being made with grapes? Cider generally has a lower alchohol content (3-8% ABV for those on the alchoholic end of the spectrum* or versus 9-12% ABV for wine). And while there are no “official” definitions to differentiate cider from wine given the same base fruit, some note that most ciders will have a higher content of residual sugars—ergo, a naturally sweeter product—whereas wine will tend to be less sweet and more dry on the tongue.
There a number of steps to the cider-making process, which may make it appear intimidating to the inexperienced. But anyone can do it, for as long as you read thoroughly, understand the process fully, and watch carefully as you carry out each step.
- A stock pot for heating up the juice
- A fermenter, such as a plastic fermentation bucket or any container with a lid you can seal
- An air lock, which allows the carbon dioxide formed in the fermentation process to escape the fermenter without allowing additional air (which would oxidize the mixture and produce acetobacter, turning it into vinegar) into the fermenter
- A sieve, for straining out solids from the fruit juice
- A hydrometer for measuring gravity, which indicates sugar content—and hence can indicate the potential alchohol content of the finished cider
- A clear hose for syphoning the mixture between vats
- A large tub to hold the mixture for the priming process
- Strong bottles that can hold pressure from carbonation, for storing the finished cider. You can use mason jars, swing-top homebrew bottles, beer bottles, or in a pinch, plastic bottles (for short-term storage, that is, though be wary as the mixture runs a higher risk of exploding in this case).
We begin by fermenting the fruit juice, done by adding yeast (any brewing yeast can be used be we went with Belgian Ale Yeast, which can be ordered from Juan Brew) to a mixture of fresh juice and sugar, sealing it with the airlock, and allowing it to ferment. The mixture is then syphoned to a separate container—leaving behind dead yeast cells and other undesired material in the old container. Carbon dioxide, though produced in the initial fermentation process, can escape through the airlock, so we re-introduce the fizziness via priming (or carbonation in bottles), done by adding more sugar based on the amount of cider present.
The majority of the work—the chemical changes—will happen naturally as part of the metabolic process, and your role mostly entails sitting back and relaxing as the mixture ferments. That said, there are a couple of things you’ll want to keep in mind. First, be sure to sterilize all your equipment (see this guide for the how-to) before use to get rid of any bacteria, which if left present, could lead to bad flavors in the finished product. It is also important to leave your jars in a temperature-controlled environment—we left ours in the fridge—as sudden changes in temperature can halt fermentation. Around 15°C or below is ideal; too warm and the fermentation might stop too early, too cool and your mixture might not ferment at all.
Moreover, you’ll want to be wary of the so-called bottle bomb phenomenon, where pressure from the mixture within goes beyond what the bottle can handle, leading it to literally go ka-boom—so definitely make sure, by checking with the hydrometer, that fermentation has stopped and the yeast has fully consumed the sugar before you seal the product in jars for priming. The addition of too much sugar during the priming process can also lead to explosions, so make sure to use just enough sugar as specified. Any additional sweetness will have to come via an unfermentable sweetener, such as sucralose, lactose, aspartame, or xylitol.
For all the steps and equipment this entails, you’ve got one intriguing beverage awaiting as you pop open the cap and take in a guzzle. The finished product gives you the lush, aromatic goodness of guava alright—but with a slightly tangy, complex, fermented kick (we’d compare it to the tart “bite” at the end that you get with kombucha) and a thick consistency that feels creamy on the tongue (likely from being a young batch). There’s nothing quite like it, for sure—and you’ll be proud to know you made it all on your own.
Time: 2 months
- 5 kg guava
- 10½ cups Water
- 1½ cups Sugar
- 50g ginger, sliced thick
- ½ packet yeast of choice
- sugar, 1 tbsp per Liter of cider
- water, equal amount as sugar
- Non-fermentable sweetener (e.g. sucralose, lactose, aspartaime, xylitol), to taste
- Sterilize all equipment needed: stock pot, fermenter, air lock, and sieve.
- Juice guava and strain through sieve.
- Add water and sugar to guava and place over the stove.
- Add the ginger slices.
- Bring up guava juice to 70 C while stirring and maintain for at least a minute. This ensures that unwanted yeasts and bacteria are killed off.
- Cool down juice. Take starting gravity with hydrometer, if desired, to compute for alcohol content.
- Once it has reached optimal brewing temperature (usually specified on the packet), pitch in the yeast.
- Seal and place airlock.
- Leave in a controlled temperature environment, e.g. in the fridge. You will know it is fermenting as the airlock will bubble. (It should take 2 weeks or so; if fermentation stops in 2 days, the room may be too warm.)
- When airlock stops bubbling, leave for a few days and check to make sure the yeast has fully consumed all the sugar. If you have a hydrometer, check it for 3 days consecutively to ensure the gravity hasn’t moved, meaning the mixture is done fermenting. (This step is very important as bottling a mixture that is still fermenting may lead to bottle bombs.)
- Once fermentation has ceased, sterilize a large tub, your bottles, and the clear hose for syphoning your cider.
- Syphon cider from one container to the other, making sure that the hose is not touching the bottom of fermenter. Avoid picking up the gunk at the bottom.
- Measure cider yield and the sugar you will need to prime it.
- Bring priming water up to a boil. Add sugar and cool down to room temperature—take note that too high a temperature may kill the yeast in the cider.
- Mix in syrup into cider. Sweeten to taste with a non-fermentable sweetener.
- Bottle cider and keep in fridge for a further 2 weeks. Your cider is now ready to drink.